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Alzheimer’s patients are “drawing on memories” through art therapy

EDMOND, Okla -- The hands are willing but the mind can sometimes hold them hostage.

Art therapy is a key to unlocking the struggles of Alzheimer's. Teaching artist, Sheila Guffey said, "Art is very similar to music. It's a different part of the brain and it's the last part of the brain to decline with this disease. That's why it's so important to do something creative. They can have memories from the past our relax a little more."

Sheila Guffey leads this class once a month at The Fine Arts Institute of Edmond.

Guffy says the class is remarkable at reducing anxiety and allowing caregivers a chance to share their experiences dealing with Dementia and Alzheimer's. Caregiver Opal Haffner told us, ""We go in there and talk like we've known each other because our stories are so familiar. Then they all gather around and start singing. It's the sweetest thing ever."

80 year old Kathleen Wheeler was once a talented artist but a stroke and dementia robbed her of that, until now.

Art therapy gives Kathleen a feeling of accomplishment AND restores and preserve her sense of self. Haffner told us, "She used to paint along time ago. She's really artsy. This class has been perfect for her. And she have loved it."

The art can be a powerful reminder for family and caregivers that the essence of their loved ones is still very much alive. Guffey said, "I have people tear up all the time. They say art class is the only thing they look forward to, it's the only time they feel peace and families get attached."

Art therapy unleashes personal expression, empathy and understanding.

And these beautiful creations are memories in the making. According to Guffey, "The projects we do, the art, these families are going to cherish it forever."

Art therapy is one of the many programs sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association of Oklahoma. It's free to anyone but reservations are required at the Fine Arts Institute of Edmond.

And we'd love to have you join us for the Walk to end Alzheimer's. It's Saturday, September 24th in Bricktown.